It takes a lot to surprise me in PPC management these days, but I have to admit that Google got me this week. After reviewing some of our text ads at work, we found that some of our ad headlines were starting to show “uship.com” in them. This was pretty strange, since we always capitalize the “S” in uShip. The situation became even weirder when I checked our Adwords Editor program and didn’t see the errant URLs in the headlines at all.
It turns out that Google launched a new feature this week: Tuesday, May 17th to be exact. On text ads that meet a certain criteria, Google will append your destination URL in the headline. The ads must be showing in the top few positions (which means you’ll need to have your quality score above a certain threshold), and the headlines must leave enough room for the additional URL to show. It’s not entirely clear whether these URLs count toward your 25-character limit, though. The example in the article above shows a 27-character headline, which is two characters above the usual 25-character limit. This change was simultaneously rolled out to all countries and languages supported by AdWords, so there’s no getting away from it. There doesn’t appear to be a way to opt out.
So what does this mean for advertisers? Well, the change is supposed to help users verify that they’re on a legitimate page, but I don’t really buy that logic. Advertisers with a long URL domain may not be able to fit their domain name in the space allotted. And, it’s important to note that whatever destination domain you use is going to be placed in the headline slot. So if you have a URL that you don’t want to show off for any reason, it could end up shooting you in the foot. And lastly, all automatically-added URLs will show in all uppercase. This caused a problem for us, since the capital S is a key part of our branding. I don’t suppose a company like eBay or LinkedIn would be too excited about having a non-standard lowercase URL put in their text ads either.
As I mentioned above, there’s no opt-out at the moment. But, there is a workaround. Google won’t display the extra URL if it already appears in the headline. So if you want to beat Google to the punch (and format your URLs like you want to), you can just put your destination URL domain in your ad headline in the format you choose. But, headline real estate is a pretty precious commodity since it’s limited to 25 characters, so it might not be a good strategy for everyone.
I don’t see any real benefit for advertisers with this change. It appears that it’s purely for Google’s benefit. But what could they be up to this time? Let’s hear what you think in the comments.